Jason Mifsud
Jason Mifsud

Controversial AFL community engagement manager Jason Mifsud has admitted the league faces ongoing challenges to its policies around cultural understanding and tolerance despite the giant strides that have been taken over the past decade.

Mifsud became a central figure in a series of controversies earlier this season, the first of which saw Adelaide recruiter Matt Rendell sacked by the club for comments about indigenous players he made to Mifsud in a private meeting.

But Mifsud's role as a community engagement manager came under greater scrutiny after Melbourne coach Mark Neeld was first accused, and later cleared, of treating the Demons' indigenous players differently to the rest of the playing group.

The fallout from that incident saw Mifsud formally apologise to Neeld and he subsequently received a warning from the AFL, which resisted calls for him to be sacked.

Mifsud has kept a very low profile since that controversy, but this week attended a conference in New York, where he spoke to media about the challenge the AFL still faces in its crusade for cultural understanding.

Speaking to ''Omnisport'', Mifsud said the AFL's work in regards to this area was far from finished and that the lesson from the Rendell situation was that the education process needed to be ongoing.

"I think what we've learnt is that it's an evolution that you need to stay really conscious of. It's not a program that you can institute and then move on from," he said.

"There needs to be a continual evolution with that understanding and appreciation and the educational programs that sit in behind that.

"I think the biggest learning is to remain vigilant, to continually have as an objective that the industry actually pursues, and not to ignore the red flags or the alerts that are arising because ultimately it will get played out in a more public sense."

Mifsud said there was no room for complacency, especially in an industry which has such a high rate of turnover among its personnel.

"When there is a turnover of people, whether it be players, coaches or people in administrative roles, all of that corporate knowledge moves on, so it's about 'How do you ensure that that cultural understanding and appreciation becomes part of the DNA of the industry?" he said.

"It's a really strong and targeted program that we measure, we evaluate and we also educate."


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